Terrorism and Counterterrorism Today: Volume 20

Cover of Terrorism and Counterterrorism Today

Table of contents

(18 chapters)
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List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Part I: Perspectives and Concepts in the Study of Terrorism

Purpose

Prior to 9/11 criminologists paid relatively little attention to the study of terrorism. In 2004, the authors argued that criminologists had much to offer to advance our understanding of terrorism and urged scholars to conduct such research. This chapter accounts the theoretical and methodological contributions by the field of criminology to terrorist research.

Methodology/approach

This chapter demonstrates how the study of terrorism has begun to get more attention in various professional settings of criminology. It then reviews applications of criminological theory and methodological advances by criminologist to terrorism research. It ends by describing efforts to build terrorism event databases.

Findings

Terrorism-related research has become common at both of the major criminological professional association meetings. Funding for research on terrorism, especially a large program on domestic extremism sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, has contributed to a growing research literature. Academic courses on terrorism have also been added to criminology programs around the country. While the criminological literature on terrorism has expanded greatly more progress has been made in applying criminological methods than theories to the study of terrorism. To date the most common theoretical perspective from criminology applied to terrorism studies has been rational choice and deterrence.

Originality/value

This chapter takes inventory on how criminology has contributed to terrorism research. It serves to validate current efforts while encouraging continued progress.

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Purpose

Drawing on the theoretical system known as pure sociology, this chapter presents a theory of the transition from ordinary citizen to dedicated terrorist.

Methodology/approach

We support our argument with data drawn from the diverse literature on terrorist affiliation, with particular emphasis on qualitative investigations into the background of individual terrorists.

Findings

The transition from citizen to terrorist represents a dramatic increase in commitment to a moral cause, or partisanship. Such commitment is a product of a specific social geometry: social closeness to a powerful organization and social distance from the enemy. That geometry is triggered by a movement of social time entailing loss and proceeds via gravitational attraction. If uninterrupted, the process reverses social time, resulting in a highly partisan geometry that calls forth risky sacrifice for the cause and severe violence toward enemy civilians.

Originality/value

Our theory builds upon network explanations of the transition to terrorism but goes beyond them in three ways: (1) it provides an explanation of the initial drift into terrorist networks; (2) it does not invoke psychology, purposes or other subjective mental states of the actors; and (3) it situates the transition to terrorism within a general theory of conflict.

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Purpose

Terrorism has much in common with genocide and sometimes may even be a form of genocide. In this chapter I systematically compare these two phenomena.

Methodology/approach

Drawing mainly from Donald Black’s work on terrorism and my own work on genocide, I examine the conceptual and theoretical overlap between terrorism and genocide.

Findings

Terrorism and genocide are similar and sometimes overlapping, and they occur under similar social conditions – in response to conflicts between socially distant and unequal groups. Conceptually they differ mainly in that terrorism is covert and carried out by civilians, and genocide may not be. The main theoretical difference is that terrorism tends to be upward – against more powerful targets – while genocide tends to be downward – against less powerful targets. Terrorism tends to be less effective than extreme genocide, then, and the most extreme cases have death tolls much lower than the most extreme cases of genocide.

Originality/value

This analysis draws from previous theories of terrorism, genocide, and social control to better place terrorism in a broader sociological context. In doing so it highlights and explains key features of terrorism, and it even helps us to speculate about the future of terrorism. That is, technological advances might in the long run destroy the social conditions conducive to terrorism, thus leading to terrorism’s ultimate demise, but in the short run they might allow terrorists to more effectively kill, leading terrorism to resemble extreme genocide in its deadliness.

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Purpose

This chapter explores the expansion of reality regarding the issue of terrorism. “There are those who argue that there is an empirically verifiable truth as to what constitutes the political” (Easton, D. (1968). International encyclopaedia of the social sciences (Vol. 12, pp. 46, 282–298), while others maintain any definition is a contingent social construction, with the disciple of politics dependent upon the nature of the political arena, itself dependent upon socially constructed and historically variable forces. Definitions of “political” are not discoverable in nature, but are rather a legacy or convention (Wolin, S. (1961). Politics and vision (p. 5). London: Allan & Unwin).

Methodology/approach

Regarding terrorism as an objective reality and subjective interpretation, this chapter reviews the definition, history, and perceptions of terrorism as it relates to the theoretical interpretations of constructivism (the meaning-making activity of the individual mind and unique experiences) and social constructionism (social interpretations of understanding).

Findings

The need to comprehend the notion of ontological relativity – that each person has a unique history from which to make sense of and create an individual reality that is valid to the self, while at the same time knowing that culture has an enormous influence on an individual’s worldview.

Originality/value

Thoughts, ideas, perceptions, and interpretations are important for all nations and especially in the United States because voters in history’s most influential, wide- ranging, hegemonic power are helping to shape American policy. Perceptions and interpretations (subjective reality) influence whether or not – and for whom – a person votes, which has long-lasting and far-reaching political implications. Once a vote is cast, that vote becomes an objective reality.

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Part II: Variations and Realities of Contemporary Terrorism

Purpose

In this chapter, we examine several attributes of lone wolf terrorists and how their activities are temporally and geospatially patterned. In particular, we demonstrate how precursor behaviors and attack characteristics of lone wolves are similar and different compared to those of group-based terrorists.

Methodology/approach

Based on data drawn from the American Terrorism Study (ATS), we examine 268 federal terrorism “indictees” linked to 264 incidents. Three types of loners are identified based on group affiliations and levels of assistance in preparing for and executing terrorist attacks. A series of analyses comparatively examine loners who had no assistance and those actors that did.

Findings

The results of this study suggest that lone wolf terrorists are more educated and socially isolated than group-based actors. Lone wolves also engage in less precursor activities than group actors, but are willing to travel greater distances to prepare for and execute attacks. Explanations for why lone wolves are able to “survive” longer than terrorist groups by avoiding arrest may in part stem from their ability to temporally and geospatially position their planning and preparatory activities.

Originality/value

Studies on lone wolf terrorism remain few and many are plagued by methodological and conceptual limitations. The current study adds to this growing literature by relying on lone wolf terrorism data recently made available by the American Terrorism Study (ATS). Our findings are valuable for members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities responsible for the early detection and prevention of lone wolf terrorism in the United States.

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Purpose

Post-9/11 a first order terrorism narrative has been widely asserted. In this chapter, I explore the development of second order terrorism narrative or ideal-type.

Methodology/approach

The chapter begins by providing a brief synopsis of three highly mediated Australian counter-terrorism operations and of shortcomings in incident counting. It also relies on some U.S. research on counter-terrorism prosecutions in support.

Findings

In first order terrorism, crime appears as a spectacular irruption or original sin on a tabula rasa of innocence and there is a clean division between us and them, non-state and state, victim and offender. In the second order terrorism narrative there is a contrasting claim that 9/11 is blowback, in kind, for U.S.-led interventions and does not offer a clean division between how we and they behave, blurs non-state and state culpability in big crimes, and sees victims and offenders trading places over time. As we adjust our perspective from the presumptive first order to second order event-acts, terrorism and counter-terrorism, event-act and interdiction, is merged as one.

Originality/value

The concept may be useful in accounting for assumptions pertaining to this category of crime, including its relation with precaution and security.

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Purpose

This chapter looks at a new form of a hybrid perpetrator within the field of individualized political violence. We reveal, that the new thing about (transnational) terrorism overcomes current oppositions and contradictions regarding terrorists and persons running amok, which (strategically) leads to an individualization of terrorism and thereby to a hybridization of a terroristic warfare.

Methodology/approach

By outlining organizational and structural changes in terroristic strategy within the framework of using both modern and antimodern elements, economic thinking, acting global as well as local, and by using network structures, the individualization of terror to the point of hybrid perpetrators is presented.

Findings

The new thing about (transnational) terrorism is the evolution of individualized perpetrators, radicalizing themselves without a clear connection to terroristic organizations. This leads to a hybridization of terroristic warfare, and within individualized single perpetrators it can be described as terrok. A terrorist running amok or a gunman on rampage with a radicalized mindset, equipped with his very individual ideology, who carries out his attacks logistically and operatively on his own while accepting his own death constitutes a new strategic way of irritating western society.

Originality/value

Currently, terrorists and persons running amok are separated into sharply distinguished categories. But regarding new tendencies in terroristic attacks committed by single perpetrators, this separation seems to be no longer able to capture the individualization of terrorism and thereby the linked hybridization of a terroristic warfare adequately. But in combining findings from both approaches, the new concept of terrok is able to do so.

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Purpose

In this chapter, I apply theories of conflict and social control derived from the work of Donald Black to explain when suicide attacks will occur and who will carry them out.

Methodology/approach

Drawing on the published literature on suicide, suicide terrorism, and social control, I present a structural analysis of suicide attacks that specifies which configurations of social space and social time are most likely to produce them.

Findings

I propose that suicide attacks can be explained by structural patterns such as social distance, status inferiority, organization, and large movements of social time. Furthermore, sacrifice is greater among those who are socially marginal individuals whose locations are otherwise conducive to both partisanship and self-destruction.

Originality/value

I highlight structural similarities between suicide attacks and other forms of violence, social control, and suicide, thus contributing to the systemization of structural theories of human behavior and suggesting avenues for further study.

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Part III: Counterterrorism Law, Policy and Policing

Purpose

In this chapter, we provide a brief historical framework of the events and policy changes that impacted the prosecution of terrorism over the past 50 years with emphasis placed on the changes that resulted from the 9/11 attacks.

Methodology/approach

We provide a review of relevant literature and complete the chapter by providing new data (2015) on case outcomes derived from the American Terrorism Study, a database housed in the Terrorism Research Center in Fulbright College, at the University of Arkansas.

Findings

Investigative and prosecutorial authority in U.S. terrorism cases has experienced ebbs and flows that correspond with terrorism attacks as well as missteps by the FBI, and each has impacted the success of prosecution efforts. Despite dramatic changes, the number of cases prosecuted after 9/11 is unprecedented, and conviction rates continue to climb.

Originality/value

This chapter provides the reader with a synopsis of the policy changes that have occurred in federal terrorism investigations and trials from the late 1960s upto the present. Based on that context, we provide an explanation of how those policy changes have impacted terrorism prosecutions.

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Purpose

This chapter delves into the controversy over detention and interrogation in the war on terror carried out by American operatives. While attending to political, legal, and ethical concerns, critical attention is directed at the manner by which certain interrogation techniques have been framed as being “scientific” and therefore effective in extracting truthful disclosures from terror suspects.

Methodology/approach

Drawing on extensive legal and medical literature, the critique offers a postmodern analysis by raising serious questions over the effectiveness and legitimacy of enhanced interrogation espoused by the Bush administration. By doing so, the conceits of the war on terror are exposed and confronted.

Findings

In 2014, the report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program) was unclassified and released to the public. Among other revelations, the document clearly shows that interrogators and their psychological consultants committed torture. In doing so, they often relied on medical knowledge for harming, rather than healing. Ethical and legal remedies aimed at correcting those problems are recommended.

Originality/value

The chapter delivers a sophisticated critique that blends recently revealed evidence of torture with postmodern interpretation. While casting doubt on the effectiveness and legitimacy of enhanced interrogation, discussion throws critical light on incidents of human rights abuses committed by health professionals. Paradoxically, those physicians and psychologists opted to use their medical skills and expertise to inflict suffering rather than alleviating it. Those acts constitute egregious ethical and legal violations that warrant prosecution.

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Purpose

The terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 were a very traumatic event for the entire nation. This was especially true for law enforcement. Many law enforcement officers and other first responders lost their lives in the initial response to the attack while attempting to save the lives of the citizens they were sworn to protect. As a result of the 9/11 attacks, many changes have occurred in the missions, operations and tactics of local law enforcement agencies in the United States.

Methodology/approach

This chapter attempts to examine the changes that were forced upon law enforcement by the events of 9/11 and to look at what the future might hold for law enforcement in an enhanced homeland security environment.

Findings

Terrorism presents additional duties for law enforcement. Traditional police missions have not been lessened, but new threats to the public have arisen.

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Purpose

Scholars often suggest that violent extremism or terrorism – “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion or intimidation” (LaFree, G., & Dugan, L. (2007). Introducing the Global Terrorism Database. Terrorism and Political Violence, 19, 181–204, 184) – is a battle for legitimacy. However, the ambiguous definition of legitimacy often makes its application to counterterrorism measures difficult at best. The purpose of this chapter is to define legitimacy to connect policies designed to counter violent extremism.

Methodology/approach

The main impediment in the study of the influence of legitimacy on terrorism is the debate over the meaning and measurement of legitimacy. This debate is reviewed, and a recent resolution is presented, grouping the many conceptualizations of legitimacy into three broad categories and identifying empirical indicators for each. These categories are then used to distinguish counterterrorism policies that can be used to boost legitimacy.

Originality/value

This chapter organizes counterterrorism policies into a recently developed framework as a tool for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

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Cover of Terrorism and Counterterrorism Today
DOI
10.1108/S1521-6136201520
Publication date
2015-09-11
Book series
Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78560-191-0
Book series ISSN
1521-6136